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article imageOne-third of world's food produced each year wasted, study says

By Steven Z.K. Nickels     May 12, 2011 in Food
One-third of the world's food production is either lost or wasted each year, according to a report commissioned by the United nations.
The Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) says that about 1.3 billion tons of the world's food produced for human consumption each year is lost or goes to waste. That is about one-third of the world's annual production, according to a study the FAO commissioned from the Swedish Institute for Food and Biotechnology (SIK).
The study, Global Food Losses and Food Waste, was made for presentation later this month at an international packaging trade gathering in Germany. It differentiated between food loss and food waste. Loss has more to do with food production, harvesting and processing and is important in developing countries where, the study points out "poor infrastructure, low levels of technology and low investment in the food production systems contribute to the loss of food," and ultimately, more of a hunger problem.
Food waste, the report says, is more of a problem for industrialized countries and primarily involves both retailers and consumers throwing otherwise edible food into the trash. According to the report, Europe and North America throws away 95-115 kg (209-253 pounds) per capita of food each year. In comparison, consumers in sub-Saharan Africa and South and Southeast Asia each throw away only 6-11 kg (13-24 pounds) per person a year.
Forty percent of food loss in developing countries occurs at post-harvesting and processing levels while 40 percent of losses in industrialized countries occur at the retailer and consumer level. The reports finds that total per capita food production for human consumption is about 900 kg (1,980 pounds) a year in wealthier countries, compared to 460 kg (1,012 pounds) a year produced in the poorest regions.
Fruits and vegetables, plus roots and tubers have the highest wastage rates of any food, according to the findings. It also says that every year, consumers in richer countries waste almost as much food (222 million tons) as the entire net food production of sub-Saharan Africa (230 million tons).
The report offers several recommendations that could help reduce food loss and waste. Among the suggestions are better communication and cooperation between farmers to better match food supply and demand, preventing premature harvesting that leads to loss of food crops, locating suppliers closer to consumers, investment in better storage facilities and transportation, less emphasis on "appearance" of otherwise edible foods that leads to throwing away foods that don't meet appearance guidelines and better cooperation between commercial and charitable organizations so food could be used by those in need other than thrown away.
The World Food Programme (WFP) reports that 925 million people in the world do not have enough to eat and 98 percent of the world's hungry live in developing countries. The WFP says that "65 percent of the world's hungry live in only seven countries: India, China, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Bangladesh, Indonesia, Pakistan and Ethiopia."
The full report ,Global Food Losses and Food Waste, is in pdf format, and can be viewed here.
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